The Price of Everything
Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do
By Eduardo Porter
(Portfolio Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781591843627, 304pp.)
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
List Price: $27.95*
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Everything has a price, but it isn't always obvious what that price is.
Many of the prices we pay seem to make little sense. We shell out $2.29 for a coffee at Starbucks when a nearly identical brew can be had at the corner deli for less than a dollar. We may be less willing to give blood for $25 than to donate it for free. Americans hire cheap illegal immigrants to fix the roof or mow the lawn, and vote for politicians who promise to spend billions to keep them out of the country. And citizens of the industrialized West pay hundreds of dollars a year in taxes or cash for someone to cart away trash that would be a valuable commodity in poorer parts of the world.
The Price of Everything starts with a simple premise: there is a price behind each choice that we make, whether we're deciding to have a baby, drive a car, or buy a book. We often fail to appreciate just how critical prices are as a motivating force shaping our lives. But their power becomes clear when distorted prices steer our decisions the wrong way.
Eduardo Porter uncovers the true story behind the prices we pay and reveals what those prices are actually telling us. He takes us on a global economic adventure, from comparing the relative price of a vote in corrupt São Tomé and in the ostensibly uncorrupt United States, to assessing the cost of happiness in Bhutan, to deducing the dollar value we assign to human life. His unique approach helps explain: * Why polygamous societies actually place a higher value on women than monogamous ones. * Why someone may find more value in a $14 million license plate than the standard issue, $95 one. * Why some government agencies believe one year of life for a senior citizen is four times more valuable than that of a younger person.
Porter weaves together the constant-and often unconscious-cost and value assessments we all make every day. While exploring the fascinating story behind the price of everything from marriage and death to mattresses and horsemeat, Porter draws unexpected connections that bridge a wide range of disciplines and cultures. The result is a cogent and insightful narrative about how the world really works.
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Eduardo Porter has been on the staff of The New York Times since January 2004, covering economics, and joined the paper’s editorial board in July 2007. He began his journalism career in 1990 as a financial reporter for Notimex, the Mexican news agency, in Mexico City. He was a correspondent in Tokyo (1991-1992) and in London (1992-1996). In 1996, Porter was appointed editor of the Brazilian edition of América Economía, a business and economics magazine based in Sao Paulo. In 2000, he became senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal, based in Los Angeles, covering the Hispanic population in the United States. He is a graduate of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He has an MSc in quantum fields and fundamental forces from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.
"Porter's book is an enthralling look at the prices we put, consciously and unconsciously, on everything from a gallon of gas to a spare kidney. Everyone could learn something from this wise and clever book. I did."
-Tim Harford, Financial Times, author of The Undercover Economist
"Everything in the world comes with a price, but what does a price mean and how is it set? This riveting narrative is the best book on these very human and very important questions. There is an interesting nugget on virtually every page."
-Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog
"A fascinating journey through what we see every day-but do not think about enough. Eduardo Porter makes you think hard about the corporate interests at work behind the veil of prices (and much more). Just because people are willing to pay does not mean that the price is right-in any sense of the word."
-Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers and professor of entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management